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Thread: Wiring advice HSS Axis

  1. #1

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    Wiring advice HSS Axis

    Hello. After a long search I recently managed to score a 1997 HSS axis sport. The original owner changed the pick ups to injectors and a transition. I really dislike the tone. I donít know if itís the way they wired it or if itís just that I donít like the pickups. Itís too dark.

    I had a similar issue with a silhouette special a few years ago. It was amazing to play but I could never get it to sound right. Always too dark. Not sure if it had anything to do with the silent circuit or some other factor. I ended up selling it, which I would like to avoid again here. This guitar plays amazingly well I just donít like the sound.

    Music man kindly supplied an original wiring diagram for me to use to restore to original spec, although I obviously donít have the original pick ups.

    What I actually would like to do is put pick ups in there that I know I like and wire them In a more standard fashion than stock. Basically, position one humbucker, position two humbucker middle, position three middle position four neck middle, position five neck.

    Iím not sure how to connect/incorporate the silent circuit. Iím not even sure I want to, if it affects the tone. Also, Iíd like the singles to see 250K but I might still want the humbucker to see 500. Might be able To get away with 250 all around.

    Iím not sure if asking mod questions like this is ďlegalĒ on music manís own website, but there you have it.

    Can anyone suggest a solution?

    Thanks

  2. #2

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    Hey- in terms of wiring, that's not too difficult.

    The trick for the singles seeing 250k is to use 500k pots (so the humbucker sees that load in position 1), but wire a 250k resistor from the switch to ground in the positions 2, 3, 4, and 5. That way the load is dropped for the singles. Alternately, you can split the bill and use a 500k volume and 250k tone pot. (A compromise for both that can work well, depending.)

    If you're using regular singles (not noise cancelling), then you might as well use the Silent Circuit. It doesn't affect your tone. It takes the hum it detects, buffers (so it doesn't load your pickups), and allows it to subtract from your signal.

    You can use the stock Axis Sport wiring diagram as a template and go from there.

  3. #3

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    Thanks for the reply. Not used to these more complex wiring schematics and I'm trying to understand how the connections work. The musicman superswitch seems to be different than the Fender ones I've been trying to read about (Fender ones have 2 sets/pairs of 5 terminals whereas the Music Man one seems to have 5 terminals together at bottom of schematic, but only 4 together at the top, with an extra one next to the common terminal closest to the top of the schematic). Hard for this non-expert to understand the wiring without understanding the switch.

    If I replace with a simpler 5 way switch that will work for my needs and is something I'm used to, how would the silent circuit be tied in? Simply connected to the common ground? Do you know if a standard Fender switch will fit?

    Thanks.

  4. #4

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    I'm not familiar with the Fender switch, but for this you only need 2 sets of 5 terminals. (The MM one has 4 sets of 5 terminals.) I'm sure we could walk you through it either way.

    The Silent Circuit connection to the pickups is actually easy. You wire the ground wire from the single coils to the Silent Circuit, instead of wiring them to ground. (Neck to blue, middle to violet.) Presto. They don't have to touch the lever switch at all.

    The only complicated part of that is how you wire the ground of the battery to the output jack- you want to make sure the current is disconnected when you pull the plug out. So you'd have to take a look at what you have, and go from there. Any of the MM wiring diagrams will illustrate this. (Again, we can walk you through it.)

  5. #5

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    Which pickups are you gonna use? I think it depends on which. With noiseless singles you won't need the silent circuit.
    MY experience: the stock single are too quiet compared to the stock humbucker.
    If you plan to have more classic "noisy" singles, I'd recommend a low output humbucker for the bridge because it will balance better with the singles.
    If you plan on a hotter bridge humbucker, the noiseless injectors are a good choice for balancing volume-wise.
    But I am no single coil sound connoisseur or aficionado, so I am by no means an expert in knowing how a good classic single coil should sound. If it's thinner and glassier than a humbucker, I'm fine with that :-)


    And: keep that guitar. The AS's are getting quite rare. I have two and won't part with none :-)
    2001 Axis Sport HH hardtail maple fretboard burnt apple
    2001 Axis SuperSport HH hardtail maple fretboard translucent gold
    1997 Axis Sport HSS hardtail maple fretboard translucent red (Pro Track in neck and Injector Neck in middle)
    2002 AL MM90 hardtail maple fretboard honeyburst converted to AL 2H (black Dimarzio Customs) *SOLD*

  6. #6

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    [QUOTE=headcrash;1070578]Which pickups are you gonna use? I think it depends on which. With noiseless singles you won't need the silent circuit.
    MY experience: the stock single are too quiet compared to the stock humbucker.
    If you plan to have more classic "noisy" singles, I'd recommend a low output humbucker for the bridge because it will balance better with the singles.
    If you plan on a hotter bridge humbucker, the noiseless injectors are a good choice for balancing volume-wise.
    But I am no single coil sound connoisseur or aficionado, so I am by no means an expert in knowing how a good classic single coil should sound. If it's thinner and glassier than a humbucker, I'm fine with that :-)

    I am going to be installing a Pariah Pickups Pasadena White humbucker in the bridge. It is hotter than PAF, but not that hot. It's a really amazing sounding humbucker that I would highly recommend checking out to anyone that likes classic rock. As for singles, I have always been a little annoyed by the volume drop, but I also haven't found a higher output single or hum cancelling one that I liked. I want them to sound like real singles. That's the whole point of having them (right?). I haven't decided what to use yet. Maybe fat 50s. They're higher output and still sound like singles. Open to suggestions. I want hendrixy neck, quacky position 2 together w humbucker (will use parallel switch for that).

  7. #7

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    Before you choose your single coils, speak to Pariah Pickups and get their suggestion. Don’t know if they do customs, but may be able to adjust their single coils to suit your needs.

    Also, what positions will you play most? You’ll have hum cancelling in positions 1, 2 and 4 without the Silent Circuit with basic ‘Fender’ HSS wiring. The Circuit is nice to have if you play with a lot of distortion but not necessary and definitely not worth stressing over. Hell, Hendrix did okay without it.
    2000 & 2003 SOLOuette Special

  8. #8

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    So I went ahead and removed the old pickups and cleaned everything up.

    I am partway through installing the pickups and am running into some interesting problems. I would be interested in some feedback/ideas about them.

    First, the wires from the single coils I want to install are too short (removed from a strat), so just to temporize/experiment I soldered some extra wire onto the neck single in order to try intalling it on it's own to see if I could at least get things going and make sure I liked the tone.

    The good news is that I think I was able to figure out the connections correctly. Since I'm just temporizing, I left the middle pickup slot blank and wired the neck single to the "front" 3 terminals with a jumper to the adjacent 4th terminal in order to use the neck single together with the bridge humbucker. Connected the ground and the blue as beej suggested. Wired the bridge to terminals 4&5, leaving the native green wire on terminal 4 (not sure what this does). Used a push-pull 500K volume pot for series parallel wiring for the HB. This was actually already in place when I bought the guitar, so not really a replacement compared to what I had previously.

    On installing the new bridge pickup it became apparent that the routing on this guitar is different than on my standard Axis. The depth of the bridge pickup cavity is 14 mm on the Axis Sport but only 11 mm on the Axis. It looks original so I don't think it's a modification. I would say this might have been done at the factory in order to balance the pickup output between the bridge and the single coils, except that the single coils are routed to the same depth. This is counterintuitive to me. Can anyone with a similar guitar verify this?

    Anyways, with everything connected, the guitar now sounds too bright. Interesting, considering that it was too dark before, including the humbucker. Maybe a switch to 250K pots might help? Also interesting, was that the neck and bridge pickups are out of phase in position 2, which I guess makes sense, considering that the middle is usually RWRP so the neck would probably be out of phase with the bridge without swapping the ground and hot wires on one of the pickups. Finally, the bridge pickup sounds quite anemic/wimpy in this guitar. I actually took the exact pickup directly from my regular Axis, where it sounds totally awesome, so the difference is definitely in the new guitar. I don't think it's a wiring error, but I suppose it's possible. I wonder if its because it's so much farther from the strings. I really wish the height were adjustable, because taking shims in and out is a PITA but I guess the original designers did not take future pickup changes into consideration.

    Any thoughts/ideas about my problems? I'm not liking the sound of the guitar either before or after the mods (so far), but the guitar's playability is absolutely amazing. Maybe the best playing guitar I've ever owned. And it sounds awesome acoustically. I just have to get the plugged in tone to match.

  9. #9

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    Yeah, nothing ever goes as planned

    Quote Originally Posted by I like Rush View Post
    First, the wires from the single coils I want to install are too short (removed from a strat), so just to temporize/experiment I soldered some extra wire onto the neck single
    That's exactly what you do. Just make sure not to overheat the wires, so you don't damage the pickup (always good advice when soldering). I usually use a little alligator clip on the other side of the wire as a heat sink, just in case.

    Quote Originally Posted by I like Rush View Post
    The depth of the bridge pickup cavity is 14 mm on the Axis Sport but only 11 mm on the Axis.
    Hard to know why its's different. In any case, you can always raise it up by putting a little piece of foam under the pickup and using longer screws if needed. The height can make a big difference and could likely be the reason you find the bridge pickup more anemic. Just one of those things you're going to have to play with to sort out.

    Quote Originally Posted by I like Rush View Post
    Anyways, with everything connected, the guitar now sounds too bright. Interesting, considering that it was too dark before, including the humbucker. Maybe a switch to 250K pots might help?
    Maybe- you'll really have to try and see if you like it. Another option is to meet in the middle - a mix of 250k & 500k pots. I've done that a few times.

    Quote Originally Posted by I like Rush View Post
    Also interesting, was that the neck and bridge pickups are out of phase in position 2, which I guess makes sense, considering that the middle is usually RWRP so the neck would probably be out of phase with the bridge without swapping the ground and hot wires on one of the pickups.
    Shouldn't be- they should be the same phase. Same with the middle- RWRP means the pickup is in phase, but the noise is out-of-phase (so it cancels out).

    Sounds like you're on the right track, you just need to play with the heights and values until you like what you hear. It's such a rabbit hole. Good luck!

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by I like Rush View Post

    On installing the new bridge pickup it became apparent that the routing on this guitar is different than on my standard Axis. The depth of the bridge pickup cavity is 14 mm on the Axis Sport but only 11 mm on the Axis. It looks original so I don't think it's a modification. I would say this might have been done at the factory in order to balance the pickup output between the bridge and the single coils, except that the single coils are routed to the same depth. This is counterintuitive to me. Can anyone with a similar guitar verify this?
    Both my Axis Sports as well as my Axis Super Sport have 14mm depth at the bridge pickup cavity. This results in a quite large distance to strings. Maybe the standard Axis has a Floyd Rose tremolo, maybe it's got something to do with that.
    Also I think (but don't know for sure) that the large distance to strings makes the guitar sound not too hot, as you would expect from an heavily overwound Alnico V pickup. I really like the soud as it is, for me just perfect.
    2001 Axis Sport HH hardtail maple fretboard burnt apple
    2001 Axis SuperSport HH hardtail maple fretboard translucent gold
    1997 Axis Sport HSS hardtail maple fretboard translucent red (Pro Track in neck and Injector Neck in middle)
    2002 AL MM90 hardtail maple fretboard honeyburst converted to AL 2H (black Dimarzio Customs) *SOLD*

  11. #11

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    So I've done some more experimenting. The guitar is unbelievably bright. I have gone so far as to disconnect all of the wires from the switch and from the silent circuit, in case they were causing issues, and also to replace the volume pot with a 250K pot. I don't have a long shaft 250K pot for the tone so I left that blank for now and rewired with no tone pot temporarily. I got a standard Fender 5 way switch and replaced the old switch, since I'm using standard pickup combinations. There was really minimal change in the brightness of the guitar with all of those changes. So I think it must just be the guitar. It's weird, because it doesn't sound unusually bright acoustically.

    I have always loved the sound of single coils but in this guitar they're simply shrill. It's crazy. Even Fender's Fat 50s pickups sound like tin.

    The guitar came from its original owner with a Dimarzio bridge injector in the neck position and a neck injector in the middle position. I experimented with putting the neck one back in the actual neck slot and it didn't sound too bad. A key factor seems to be pickup height, which isn't at all adjustable on these guitars because of the direct to body mounting. So I've also tried using shims to get things exactly right, with the pickups up pretty close to the strings. What I found worked really well was cutting up a cracker box into pickup-shaped pieces. The pieces are really thin, so you can adjust about a mm at a time or less, but it takes a lot of patience. Anyway, these injector pickups seem to sound a lot better if they're right up close. The neck one sounds halfway decent, in this guitar anyway. Not amazing, but passable.

    I know almost everyone here will disagree, but I have always found the stock Axis bridge pickups to be too hot, too thick sounding and lacking in note to note definition with chords. For that reason, I took the original out of my standard Axis and replaced it with a lower output pickup a long time ago. So I figured what the heck and threw the old Axis pickup in this overly bright guitar. I was amazed to find that it sounds great! Quite balanced and open. I've never gotten this sound with this pickup out of any other guitar, and I've tried quite a few. Go figure, right? The originally intended pickup sounds good. Not exactly rocket science, you might say. But to me, it sounded awful in the original Axis, which it was originally designed for. I should mention that I used the same crackerbox shims to get the pickup height higher than standard. Actually, it's probably pretty close to the normal height for my standard Axis (which has an 11mm pickup cavity depth vs 14mm pickup cavity depth for the Axis sport).

    So I now need to figure out what to put in the middle slot. The goal would be a "normal single coil sound" so I can get nice chime in positions 2 and 4. But again, actual singles sound way too bright. I'm thinking maybe a Dimarzio area pickup, but I wonder if they might also be too bright. Not sure.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? It's such a weird problem. Never had anything like this before.

  12. #12

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    Wow, sounds like a really bright guitar.

    In your shoes, I might try bringing the resistance down lower than 250k pots. Use a resistor to try the equivalent of 125k for the singles. But find singles you like- if you choose them based on how dark they sound, you might not like them long term. (Personally I like the ones in the AL- the Duncan APS-II.)

    Another option is to use your tone control to take the edge off. You can even wire the tone control so it affects the singles only. That way you can keep it dialed down a bit, and they'll sound less bright, but this won't affect your bridge pickup. If you need more brightness, you've got room to go.

    You can also use a higher capacitance cable to reduce the highs, or just adjust your amp. (I know- I hate doing this when I switch guitars, but sometimes that's what it takes.)

    Personally I'd go the tone control route. Disconnect it from the bridge pickup. Then set it so it's not so bright, and forget it.

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